Each week the Arts Team are bringing their favourite recomendations of books, films, television, podcasts and music to help get you through self-isolation.
This week we are recommending our favourite music
I have been loving Birthmarks by Hilary Woods recently. Starting out as the bassist for 90s band JJ72, Hillary’s second album, Birthmarks is released on the brilliant label Sacred Bones (home of Blanck Mass, Jenny Hval and John Carpenter.) Birthmarks is a very personal album and is soaked in reverb, echoing shoegaze greats and dream pop bands of the early 90s but with Hillary’s own haunting folk sound. Definitely for fans of Julie Christie, Myrkr or Cocteu Twins.
I’ve been a fan of classical music since I was a child and any time different genres collide is an exciting event. It was my pleasure to hear therefore, that frontman for influential band Killing Joke and classical composer Jaz Coleman was to release a new album of classic works. Magna Invocatio - A Gnostic Mass for Choir and Orchestra Inspired by the Sublime Music of Killing Joke is a recording of works by Coleman and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra.
Taking songs by the band that have stood the test of time over their 40+ years career, Coleman has created some beautifully delicate arrangements and uplifting anthems from his back catalogue. My highlight on the album has to be The Raven King, a sympathetic and joyful memorial to Paul Raven, bassist of the band who sadly passed away in 2007.
Lastly for now, working and living in this lockdown has let me reacquaint myself with my piano. I’ve never been a virtuoso on the instrument but being able to play along with artists such as Philip Glass, Max Richter and Angelo Badalamenti is one of the ways I’ve been keeping sane. With this minimal piano music, Jazz artist Alfa Mist recently released a collection of piano works titled On My Ones. I first found Alfa Mist through his album Antiphon, which, for me was one of those albums that had a perfect crossover of Jazz and groove that cities I love like Bristol are so brilliant at capturing.
Looking at my Bandcamp list I’ve also been listening to the following recently:
Foxtrap – Not Enough
Baby T – Porta
Michaael Peter Olsen – Mayday
Bonnacons of Doom – Compiled (2014 – 2017)
I love all music – even music I wouldn’t naturally choose to listen to intrigues and often surprises me! I have some interesting and crazy choices amongst the 7,000 tracks in my Apple Music library, and I always enjoy shuffling the music to just see what turns up. It could be pop music or opera, jazz or grunge – from Frank Sinatra to Kiri Te Kanawa to Adam Ant to Mec Lir, who knows what may play and I inevitably find something that fits my mood or my thoughts for the day. Everyone has a soundtrack to their own life, songs that instantly take you to a certain time or to certain people and places, and in these strange times, music instantly provides comfort and reassurance as well as lifting the soul and mood.
Just to pick out a few things that I’m currently enjoying:
Musical Theatre: I can't stop listening to Everybody’s Talking About Jamie by the Original West End Cast, it's currently my favourite show (and I’ve seen lots of shows!). I’ve seen the show several times as a live screening locally, but I’ve also been to London to see the show live – and it’s a wonderful feel good happy ending show for our times. I’ve got tickets to go to see the show in Liverpool in June too but that’s looking unlikely now, although I’m ever the optimist so I haven’t cancelled yet!
Classical: Night by Ola Gjeilo is a new album by a wonderful young contemporary choral composer. It is simply stunning. I sing with Manx Voices and we have discovered a love for this Scandinavian composer and have learnt several of his pieces. The music is calming and atmospheric, with beautiful harmonies. What’s not to love?
Local: I am really loving listening to the Voodoo Bandits Sink Below. What an absolute tune! This is the song on repeat when I’m walking in South Barrule plantation on my daily exercise whilst my daughter looks after her horse at nearby stables. It brightens my day and alone in the forest, I join in with the band singing loudly where nobody but the trees and the birds can hear me! Such local Manx talent – and supported by the Isle of Man Arts Council - is amazing!
Steve McQueen by Prefab Sprout is my all time favourite album. My musical comfort blanket – and yes, its 35 years old but it still sounds as wonderful to me as it did when I first heard it – and if you’ve never listened to it, then you absolutely should!
The Music I’m listening to is mostly through BBC 6 Music as I’m trying to keep some normality as I usually listen first thing in the morning which sets me up for the day with Lauren Lavern being able to listen to this radio station all day is hugely beneficial as the music and interviews on this station varies enourmously like my taste in music so it really does help me instill some “normality” at the moment.
I’ve just discovered the band Pottery and the song I’m playing to get motivated is Texas Drums which of course as a drummer helps me focus and get motivated.
Bands I listen to a lot at the moment to raise spirits are bands I’ve seen a few times and remind me of festivals and gigs which I am missing very much so remembering seeing them and the feelings I have at the time of seeing them is very important.
Heavy rotation according to my Spotify is currently, Doves, Foo Fighters, Elbow, Metallica and Led Zepplin.
I recently got myself a record player (long overdue since my record collection had begun way before I had the means to play anything!) and so at the moment I'm listening to The Drifters, The Beatles and First Aid Kit on vinyl - I love that delicious crackle it makes!
On Spotify I've made a few new discoveries from friends' recommendations so I'm listening a lot to artists like Slyvan Esso (Die Young and Coffee are great tunes) and Orville Peck, In the Dead of Night is very quickly becoming my favourite song so far this year.
The music genre I listen to to get myself motivated is Electro Swing and I really love Caravan Palace, Parov Stellar and Peggy Suave - all definitely worth checking out if you want to energise yourself.
In terms of local music here on the island, I absolutely love Biskee Brisht! They're lively, fun and have gorgeous vocals to happy melodies. If you've not yet heard them then I urge you to check them out!